Sunday Sewcial. Ideas…where do they come from?

Where do you get your ideas for quilts?

I find it fascinating that we are all so very different as quilters, yet we all have that one wonderful thing in common. And, though the ways we do things can be as different as night and day, there is room for everyone at the table. And speaking of the table, welcome back to the Sunday Sewcial!

Won’t it be fun to learn where we all get ideas from? I think so.

Color always gives me ideas. That yellow and green in the photo above makes me think of doing something jaggedy and improv. I can almost taste things pungent and tart. It also puts me in mind of John Deere tractors, but I can’t see making a quilt about them. At least not today.

I can tell you that I also get ideas from antique and vintage quilts. That’s probably not a surprise to anyone, right? Or maybe it is? So often, I can see a quilt and the pattern, or usually, color, will strike a chord with me, and I will start thinking about how it plays with whatever is next to it. This can send me whirling off in another direction. That might sound strange, but I just let my imagination lead. Even though I say I don’t follow patterns, in this respect I do. There is something soothing about the orderliness of pattern and repetition. I mean, this one below is calming, right?

This one, for example, was directly inspired from a set of blocks
The inspiration…a set of ca. 1930s blocks

Sometimes I get ideas from words too. I adore words in all forms. I love hearing them, writing them, seeing them in print, on a screen, and especially on a quilt. Song lyrics often spark ideas. The quilt below, “Trading My Sorrows,” is based on the song by the same name. I first created it in response to a call for entries in Mary Kerr’s exhibit, “Dare to Dance: An Artist’s Expression of Joy.” I had stewed over the subject for months, discarding idea after idea. But I heard that song in church and the idea came to life. I could hardly sit still through the rest of church. (Yes, this happens to me a lot in church. Focusing on the words of a song, and especially a hymn, often kicks my imagination into high gear.)

Trading My Sorrows, Lori East, 2013

My ideas often come from the pieces I’m working with. I can’t necessarily tell you that there are tangible clues, but different pieces send me off on different tangents. The quilt below, “Out of Time,” was inspired by a raggedy dresser scarf. That scarf was eventually cut in half and sewn back together to become the center of the quilt. And yes, at its first show, it won a ribbon. Fun, huh?

Out of Time, 2014 (?)

I imagine that you, like me, get your ideas from all sorts of places. But can you name just one or two? I’m curious and I’ll be eager to hear, so leave a comment!

  • cindy parry

    What I know or am quite familiar with inspires me. I know Japan, birds, gardens/flowers, books/words, a few other things and these typically inspire me. Even a call for entry has to speak to that base however tenuously else I’m not inspired to create. If I’m not feeling particularly creative but still have the yearning to create, I’ll turn to patterns I have which also tend to lean to those same subjects. At those times, creativity comes with the picking of fabric to make the pattern my own.

    • This is interesting, Cindy. I know you tap into your own creativity very well. I think that’s true, that we are inspired by what we’re familiar with. Without some familiarity, I, at least, can’t find a starting point. I think we all do create from our own centers…it just fascinating to see how it is manifested.

  • Wendy Tuma

    Often a color or a pattern in a piece of fabric will set off a design in my head. Or something I’m dealing with, like not being able to sleep, gives me an idea (still haven’t made that quilt, but it’s definitely a design in my head). Today in church, this line from a song, “once an enemy now seated at your table” had me pondering that for another quilt series.

    • The songs…you too? And that line is one I believe I have pondered too. So often, these particular viewpoints resonate with me. Sometimes I can pull something out of them, sometimes there is just nothing there to create what I think could come of it. Does that make any sense?

      • Wendy Tuma

        Yes, perfect sense. Sometimes there’s just so much fullness to the thought, it’s difficult to focus in to what to portray.

        • Exactly. A friend once remarked to me that a true artist will reach that point when he or she knows that they are competing with the object, that it simply cannot be portrayed. I have thought about that statement ever since. But, that doesn’t mean I think I am an artist. It usually just means that I don’t feel like I have the tools to portray it properly. Tools, resources, skill, whatever. It often frustrates me. And yes, “…so much fullness to the thought,” is the perfect way to say it. Some concepts are too big for me to wrap my brain around. But they are sure amazing to think about.

          • cindy parry

            I love your phrasing Wendy “so much fullness to a thought”. Oh, that says so much so well with so few words. Perfection.